Monday, November 22, 2010

Roadtrip to Catskill: Tracing Cumming and Heiser


I visited the Catskill Village Cemetery yesterday in Catskill, Greene County, New York.
For years, I have been searching for the parentage of Nellie, wife of Abraham Brewer Duryea.  Nellie died in Glen Ridge, Essex County, New Jersey at Mountainside Hospital on 5 December 1965.  (The certificate was acquired in person from Glen Ridge- back when you could just walk in to town hall and do this.  You can’t do this now.)  Her mother was listed as “unknown.”  Her father was listed as “? Commings.”  Her birthdate was 26 January 1879 in “Catskills, N.Y.”  She was cremated but not buried at Rosedale Cemetery in Orange, Essex County, New Jersey.  The location of her ashes is unknown.  The social security number on her death certificate is not listed in the social security death index.  I wrote to the Social Security Administration for a copy of her application for a number and included a copy of the death certificate.  I received a letter explaining that no such record could be found.
I was not sure if Nellie was born in the Catskills, which covers a vast region, or if she was born in Catksill, a town in Greene County, New York; or if she was born in a completely different location.  I spoke with the town clerk in Catskill, New York, who advised me that birth certificates were sometimes issued in the 1870s and 1880s, but there was no birth certificate matching Nellie.
No matches for baby Nellie in the 1880 census have been found.
Next I obtained the marriage certificate for Nellie to Abraham Brewer Duryea.  They were married in Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey on 9 October 1898.  Nellie’s parents on the marriage certificate appear to be Annie Hyser or Hysen and William Henry Cumming.  This was great.  I had names.  Bride and groom were living in Jersey City.  I found several families named Cumming or Cummings, and a few Hysers.  But none seemed to connect with Nellie.  By the 1900 census, Nellie and Abraham were living in Hoboken, Hudson County, New Jersey, with two babies and no extended relatives.
Following this couple into 1910, they were living in Jersey City with their two children and Beulah Miller, sister-in-law, and Ray Sprague, boarder.  Bingo.  Now following Raymond Sprague, he was in the 1920 census in Orangetown, Rockland County, New York with his wife, Beulah, two children, and the elusive mother of Beulah and Nellie:  Anna B. Brower, age 59, widowed.
Beulah Miller provided more information than Nellie.  Beulah’s birth certificate gives a date of birth of 18 August 1889 at 21 Henry Street in Jersey City; her middle name was Barton; and her parents were James L. Miller and Annie B. Hyser.

Tracking back from Beulah’s birth, I found a marriage certificate for Anna Bell Cumming, with Cumming crossed out and “Hyson” written above, to James Livingstone Miller in Jersey City on 18 June 1886.  His parents were Christopher Miller and Agnes M. Barton.  (Barton was probably the source of Beulah Miller's middle name at birth.  On Beulah's marriage certificate, she uses a middle name of Katherine.)  Anna’s father was Luman and her mother was Catherine Eckler.
Going back to Catskill, in the 1870 census we find Louman Hyser, his wife Catharine E., and their children, Katie, Charles L, Robert D., Hannah, and Nellie M.  I wanted to trace the Hysers back further.  They look German, but keep listing New York as their birthplace.  I also needed to trace Nellie’s father, William Henry Cumming.  I had a timeframe for William’s death:  he died after conceiving Nellie in 1878 but before Anna remarried in 1886.
1870 census, Catskill, Greene County, New York
"Hannah" is Anna Bell

I kept posting inquiries on message boards and was contacted by a Hyser cousin.  He has the last name, but with a variant spelling.  He sent me a compiled genealogy on the Hysers, The Transactions of the Rockefeller Family Association, by Henry Oscar Rockefeller.  This book provides several generations of the Heiser family, starting in the 1780s, when John Heiser married Margaret Rockefeller.  They were the great grandparents of Anna B. Hyser.  According to this book, the elusive Anna B. Hyser married William H. Cummins on 22 November 1877 and then James L. Miller on 18 June 1886.  No mention of another marriage to a man by the last name of Brower.  This particular branch moved to Jersey City in the 1880s or 1890s, but was buried in Catskill.
Sylvia and Reinhard Hasenkopf have transcribed the stones in the Catskill Village Cemetery and posted this information, along with a map, online.  I found potential matches for the Hysers and William Cumming.  So to Catskill Village Cemetery I went.  I don’t know why, but for some very helpful reason, a lot of the women buried in this cemetery have their maiden names on the stones.  I found the family stone for Louman Hyser, his wife Catherine Eckler, and their five children.  The stone to the right is Peter J. Hyser, father of Louman.  (Nellie Hyser, died 1875, is perhaps the source of the name for Nellie Cumming, born 1878.)
 

Peter J. Hyser, 1796-1877


In a neighboring section, I found a stone for William H. Cumming, 1856-1882.  A death date of 1882 would fit the timeframe for the death of Nellie Cumming’s father.  This stone is next to stones for the Grant family.  The Cumming connection is Annie Cumming, wife of John A. Grant, 1793-1876.  I can find the Grant family in Catskill, as well as possible Cummings families with William.  Are they connected?  Do I have the correct William H. Cumming?  I don’t know.  I must keep researching.
William H. Cumming 1856-1882
Annie Cumming Grant, 1793-1876